If you’re looking to catch up on my entire Strength Training for Runners series, you can find my strength page HERE. So far I have covered the majority of major muscle groups that are so important for runners. I myself am very much a stronger runner when I combine strength training and running!
Part 6: Core
I am somehow always “too busy” for core strength training, and I would rather run two extra miles than take 20 minutes to work on my core strength, but I know how important core strength is for running. Core strength is integral to proper running form and sometime the best core workout is just focusing on posture while running. I notice after a hard run, my abs are killing me! BUT in the case that you want to try some fun core moves and don’t have access to a trampoline park, I jotted down my favourite ways to work my abs.
1. Scissor abs. Lying flat on your back, lift your legs about six inches off the floor and perform alternating criss-cross motions with your feet. Keep your lower back on the floor and fully engage your core for the movement. Instead of going for reps, I aim for 30 seconds of this movement.
2. Reverse crunch. Holy lower abs for this one. The key to making my core super sore the next day is to work all different angles of my abs (obliques, lower abs, transverse abs, etc.). This one really targets the lower abs and instead of using momentum to keep this movement going use only the core! Either 16 reps or 30 seconds.
3. Pushups. Despite my deep hatred of pushups and all things that require significant arm muscle, pushups admittedly work my core like no other. Not only are they great to build are muscle, they require core for stability, making them a great ab move. I think you know the modifications of this move. 😉
4. Bench V-Sit. I recently started incorporating this move into my workout and I have worked up to holding a 10lb dumbbell between my feet. The added weight just adds intensity and a challenge to doing the V-sit. Pushing the legs out and back is tricky because you are attempting to balance AND do a v-sit at the same time, burning that core! I go for 16 reps.
5. Bicycle crunches. Yeah, I know, you were expecting some revolutionary core workout with no crunches but I honestly love bicycle crunches. Far more effective for me than regular crunches or plain ol’ sit-ups, I like the challenge of bicycle crunches. Once again I go for time and not reps, mostly because I lose track of the reps that I do.
6. Captain’s chair knee lifts. A huge range of moves can be done from this nifty little piece of equipment at the gym, but my favourites are knee lifts, using the core. Instead of swinging your legs between each rep, make sure you stop the momentum and use the abs to lift your legs. You can lift your legs towards the right and left in an alternating movement, you can lift straight legs, or you can bend your knees and lift your knees.
7. Bosu V-Sits. Just like the bench version, but because the bosu ball is a relatively uneven surface and requires a lot more balance, I find these more challenges. I place my hands behind me on the back of the Bosu ball, bench my legs and sit in a V-position, then extend my legs using my core to maintain balance and bring them back in. You can also do just as the photo below shows, and without using your hands, simply sit as still as you can in a V-position.
8. Jackknife. Woah, almost like a sit-up, but an actual effective ab move. I couldn’t believe how hard this one was when I first tried it so I have kept it in my core-workout rotation ever since. 16 reps or 30-45 seconds of this move is where I am at right now!
9. Cable Core Rotation. If you’re looking for a move to add to a daily strength workout that isn’t a lying-on-the-floor one, this is it. Super-setting this with a shoulder cable move is a great way to sneak some core into an upper body workout. The key to this one is really focusing on engaging the core and not straining the back.
10. Ab roller. Ok, so… I totally can’t do this one… and I may have fallen on my face TWICE trying it BUT I know it is a killer core move. I saw someone doing this at the gym a few years ago and so I tried it and completely failed because my core strength is a lot less than I thought, but I am working up to getting a decent set of reps in. It’s so tough, but a challenge is a good thing!
For someone who finds many many ways to avoid a core workout (umm, yes, I had to wash my hair that morning instead of doing core work) I apparently have a lot of ab moves in my gym rotation. While I could spend at least an hour doing an upper body or leg workout, I find it hard to even come up with 15 minutes for core! When I know I want to work my core I really need to plan ahead so I am not trying to come up with a workout on the spot because that will never happen and I will go back to squats or something. 😛
Disclaimer: While I am certified in exercise theory and group fitness, I am not a personal trainer, I just spend many hours in the gym and have learned a lot from other trainers about form and proper movement. Please consult a physician before beginning a new workout regime and discuss technique and form with a local trainer BEFORE you start lifting… oh, and have FUN with it!